I happened to catch the last bits of a home-improvement show last night that I thought might be useful to some people out there.  The show featured a homeowner with an older toilet (3.5 gallon per flush) and the fix-it people retrofitted a newer flush and fill valve to the older toilet.  The result was a toilet with two buttons — one for liquid (1 gallon per flush) and one for solid (3 gallons per flush, if I recall correctly). I thought it was a nifty idea to re-use an existing toilet, but to conserve water (at least for the liquid-only flushes).

There are a lot of abandoned houses out in the country, that have not been lived in in a long, long time.  Here are a few pictures of (what I thought were) interesting old kitchens and bathrooms.  Some of these houses must have been quite nice in their day, and some were quite large too. 

Here’s one of a pink kitchen (to the right). 

Reminds me of our cupboards.

 

I don’t think the cabinets were metal.  Also, I wonder what that faucet-looking thing is to the right of the faucet.  A soap dispenser?  

Lovely blue matching fixtures! I have mixed feelings about this bathroom. With the right tile and some cleaning, I think I'd love it!

 And you thought your bathroom needed cleaning?

Here's another bathroom, not as colorful. The tub had a shower riser coming from the tub spout, somewhat like in our house.Just an old, abandoned bathroom.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Great refrigerator!

 

There was a refrigerator like this that came with our house.  It’s in our basement awaiting use again.  I like the wood cabinets too.  And that wallpaper is interesting.  I forget what that backsplash area was made of. 

Finally, here are two pieces of wallpaper I liked. 

Duck, Duck, Goose!

 

Reminds me of a combination between Mission and Deco styles, or something.

 

Our bedroom needed help. Bdr1 This picture shows the new ceiling fan and brown curtains, but other than that, we weren’t liking the room too much.  There was a wallpaper border – soccer balls and footballs, etc. – running all across the top of the room.  Of course, the clutter and mismatchiness didn’t help either.  There really was only one way I could see to arrange the furniture though, with two doorways, a radiator, two windows, and a California king-sized bed.

 

My plan was to re-do the bedroom without the wife knowing.  Risky undertaking!

First, I gathered bits and pieces over time.  I knew we liked the blue-and-brown combination.  I splurged on a comforter cover at Pottery Barn, a Nouveau-looking turquoise-blue and brown, with some white and orange in the pattern.  I found sheets and a bedskirt to fit our odd-sized bed on Amazon and Target (discovered later, the same sheet set being used on the set of my favorite TV show, “Pushing Daisies”).  I had seen a pair of cool, retro-looking light blue lamps at an antique store, and while I was there, I picked up a small table/cabinet to be an alarm clock stand and book overflow depository.  We read a lot of books.  I wasn’t able to find a pair of nightstands, which was OK for now.  A small wool rug was found on eBay for a quite reasonable price.  I had also planned to make a headboard, but didn’t have a specific enough idea or the time to do it. And I ambitiously wanted to reorganize our sad little closet, but found myself without the time or plans to do that either.  Have to save some projects for another day!

As far as the wall color, I found that choice difficult.  With all the warm-toned woodwork in our place, I have trouble finding colors that don’t clash too much with the trim.  The Pottery Barn catalogs always have such nice uses of wall colors, but the vast majority of those scenes show painted trim.  We won’t paint the trim!  I settled on a gold-ish color.

Removing the wallpaper border was the worst part of the job.  I only had about 8 hours to do the entire room, and the border took up more time than I had thought it would.  I used wallpaper remover spray stuff, and a scoring tool, but with our bumpy plaster walls, those didn’t seem to help much.  Then again, since our walls are bumpy, the border wasn’t too stuck on in a lot of places.  The rest of the job – painting, etc. – was uneventful.

Here are the results:

misc 011_Small misc 012_Small misc 020_Small

 

I still have to hang up the picture rail, and get some pictures on the walls.  We always have trouble deciding how large the pictures should be, or even what they should be.  But, for about $300, I think it turned out alright, compared to before anyway.  The wife isn’t so keen on the wall color, but that can be changed easily enough.

I’m trying to identify our bathroom and kitchen faucets, in order to make it easier to find parts and/or eventual replacements. 

The kitchen faucet is marked “Standard” and  “Re-Nu” at its base.  We suspect that perhaps the curved part of the faucet, coming out of the base, may have been replaced at some point, but we really have no way to know for sure. I know the Standard company at some time turned into the “American Standard” company we know now. The sink was manufactured by the Standard Sanitary Mfg. Co. of Louisville, and appears dated 5-27-38.  The dimensions are 42 x 25 and the model is “Hostess.” (I think our radiators were also manufactured by the Standard Company).

The only “Re-Nu” references I’ve found online all point to bathroom faucets, with different appearances.  It might be the Re-Nu label refers to the method of washers or valve seats the faucets use — more like a feature, than a specific model.

misc 028_Small misc 029_Small misc 032_Small

The bathroom faucet handles are marked Kohler, with H or C on each handle.  The handles are cross-shaped, and the escutcheons are octagonal (with rounded sides). I have Kohler looking into it, but I don’t know if that company will be much use for info on faucets that old.  The house is from the 1930s, and we found a paper stating that Kohler faucets were to be used.  If I remember right, that paper was dated in the late 40s or early 50s.  The bathtub has the same faucets, only coming out of the wall.  Originally, the tub spout had no provision for a shower, but we replaced the spout with an exterior shower riser.

misc 022_Small misc 023_Small

Any information would be appreciated!

P.S. Incidentally, if anoyone has any good tips on cleaning vintage chrome faucets (obviously ours need a good cleaning!), I’d love to hear about those too!

Towel under tank to catch leaks

Since we bought this charming house in 2007, we’ve been slowly fixing problems identified by the home inspector.  This time, it’s the rocking toilet.  Besides wobbling, the flush handle had to be jiggled or held down in a cerain way to stop the water from constantly running.  Having to explain this to guests, and checking the handle each time the bathroom was used, was annoying.  Another feature of our old toilet was a leak from the tank which slowly got worse. We were worried that the leak might have rotted our subfloor, causing the wobbling. Sometimes, too, there was a slight odor.

We did not set out yesterday to install a new toilet. (more…)

Last time I wrote anything here, it was March, 2008. Time flies when you’re busy! Now I’ll make some excuses, and then provide a little update.

Excuses:

  1. Our daughter, who was just 4 months old as of the last post, is now 2. Keeping up with her keeps us busy and keeps us laughing.
  2. I took the Indiana bar exam last summer, which took some time to study for.
  3. Started my own law office. Maybe not the best time economically to do that.
  4. Got elected to our village board last year.
  5. We probably ran out of steam (and money) for non-essential projects.

House Update: The electrical rewiring finally was completed in summer of 2008. It sure is nice to have outlets conveniently available in each room.  The circuit box needs to be cleaned up a bit, and we’ll probably do some more wiring in the basement to accomodate a shop area and some finished living space.  There still is no power to the garage, though. I think it was in 2008, maybe early 2009 that I had shellacked some picture rail molding to hang in our bedrooms. The molding is still under our bed waiting to be hung…

Garden Update: The 2008 vegetable garden was a huge success.  We had several varieties of tomato, peppers, lettuce, and radishes. The asparagus we planted early that spring flourished. Our cantaloupes were wonderful. But, the raspberry sticks I planted in the back didn’t make it.  They were replaced by wildflowers I grew from seed.

The 2009 garden, on the other hand, was not so great.  The asparagus continued to thrive, but the tomatoes did not fare so well. The peppers did OK but they seemed slow to grow and make fruit. The cantaloupes sucked. Perhaps it was due to the cool and rainy weather we seemed to have all spring and into the summer. We also tore down the chicken-wire fence around the garden and instead used black fabric to block weeds around the perimeter. That wasn’t successful either. The chives I had planted in 2008 made a surprise reappearance — I thought they disappeared and were dead — and grew well.  And, we harvested garlic planted the year before.

In spring 2008, I dug up pieces of the huge hydrangea row alongisde the house and planted them in a parallel row across the driveway. They did well the first year and even better the second.  Last year I added new cuttings to the row to help fill it in more quickly.  We also planted a ‘Limelight’ hydrangea in front of the house, close to the street, and an ‘Endless Summer’ (I think) hydrangea in front of the house by the foundation.  The foundation also got a low, bushy pine (‘Mugo’) and some holly plants.  Most of the lilies were moved to the back of the house. 

Last fall,  I went on a little spree since a nursery was having a good clearance sale. I got a hazelnut tree, a ‘Black Lace’ elderberry bush, a black pussy-willow, and some other things, but a contorted filbert (aks Harry Lauder’s walking stick) was the best find. Getting everything home was one adventure, and planting it all was another. While planting the filbert, I fell into the hole along with the plant since it was so heavy.

The 2010 garden is still in the planning stages. We considered not planting anything this year, to let the ground recover.  I’m not so sure I can really plant nothing though.  At any rate, there will be some big changes.  Sice our daughter loves berry shakes, we’ll be planting raspberries again.  And, best of all, this year we can harvest the asparagus!

It had to happen sooner or later. Our hot water heater started leaking. I suppose it could have been worse, exploding all at once instead of developing a relatively minor leak, but is there ever a good time to deal with a breaking down water heater?
I raced off to the three chain stores to compare prices. It does seem like most water heaters are gas, not electric. Ours was electric, and we didn’t want to incur even more costs by switching to gas. We ended up buying a Whirlpool 50-gallon heater, with a 9-year warranty. It’s not the best one they make, but the best one they make that was in stock. It has some fancy-schmancy “Energy Smart” feature which supposedly should save some electric operating costs. However, I’d be more convinced by having a thicker layer of insulation around the heater.

Anyway, the store arranged for a local installer to put it in the following day. Since our old one was just leaking, that was fine. We didn’t have to go without hot water (not more than usual anyway). It was installed without a hitch, but the guy had to return with help to remove the old heater since it was so extremely heavy. Turns out, the old heater had a considerable quantity of silt inside, probably from the decades of running off the well I assume.
I didn’t have to lift a finger, except for draining the old heater just to save the installer time.